'A spark-plug': London, Ont.-native Susanne Grainger rows to Olympic gold

Canada's women's eight crew -- including London’s own Susanne Grainger -- captured gold on the final day of Olympic rowing, winning the event for the first time in 29 years.

CTV News London spoke with Grainger’s first-ever coach, Bob Ward, who started teaching Grainger how to row at the London-Western Rowing Club (LWRC) on Fanshawe Lake.

“She came out to the lake and tried it, from that day forward she absolutely loved it. I remember coaching with someone else, they described her as someone with a spark-plug. She had that from the very beginning.”

Ward first started teaching Grainger when she was in Grade 8, then all the way through to her high-school graduation.

When watching the women row to gold, Ward says those in the room erupted.

“We had the windows open to the street and I am sure the people two blocks down heard us yelling.”

Rightfully so, as Ward has followed Grainger’s career from its beginning to her becoming the gold medallist.


(Source: London Western Rowing Club)

The women’s eight crew won in just under six minutes to secure the gold for Canada.

“I was in shock, after the race I just sat there staring at my TV for about five minutes,” says LWRC club manager, Erin Alizadeh, who is also a rower.

A second Olympian on the crew, Lisa Roman, also still trains at LWRC with Grainger.

“They are people that I have looked up to as an athlete, I have watched Kristen Kit’s journey, I have spoken with Lisa Roman as well as Susanne, so it’s really exciting to see them all win a gold medal for Canada. I watch their races and say, 'Oh my gosh, I want to do that.'”

The LWRC has been training a stream of athletes since the 1950s, and more than 100 have represented Canada at home and on international waters.

“This lake has produced a lot of really, really good athletes,’ says Ward.

Asked if he had a message for Grainger, Ward was exuberant.

"Way to go Susanne that was phenomenal, so happy for you and your crew, way to go. Go Canada!”